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Nationals Concede Benalla To ALP

The National Party has conceded defeat in the Benalla by-election. Held by the conservative political parties since 1904, Benalla was snatched by the ALP yesterday with a swing of over 8%.

Denise AllenCounting of postal and pre-poll votes today has seen Labor’s Denise Allen (pictured) increase her lead over the National Party’s Bill Sykes.

Allen has been winning 50.5% of the postal votes, maintaining the trend of voters throughout the central Victorian electorate. She now has a two-party-preferred lead of 50.66%, or 390 votes. With about 1000 votes still to come in, she is in an unbeatable position.

The ALP’s primary vote has increased by 18.69% since the 1996 election when its candidate polled only 23.64%. Yesterday Allen polled 42.33% of the primary vote, down slightly from the 42.59% she secured in last year’s general election. Allen and former Deputy Premier Pat McNamara were the only candidates in that election.

The National Party’s primary vote yesterday was 40.92% down 16.49% from the 57.41% McNamara polled last September.

Much of the decline in the National Party vote went to two independents. Whilst Bill Hill, who polled 15.36% in 1996, yesterday garnered 6.65%, he was outpolled by the lesser known Geoff Rowe on 7.02%.

The 8.07% two-party-preferred swing to the ALP means that just over half of all those voters who deserted the National Party for the independent and Green candidates gave their second preferences to Labor.

The future of the Liberal and National Party coalition arrangement in Victoria is now under question following the by-election result. Premier Steve Bracks claimed today that Labor is the party of regional and rural Victoria.

The state of the parties in the Legislative Assembly now is ALP 44, Liberal 35, National 6, Independents 3.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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